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Off to the Right Financial Start in 2018

January is the start of a new year and just happens to be Financial Wellness Month.

To help get your year off to good start and you on the road to good financial health, begin by building a spending plan. Having a plan can help you live within your income, provide a method to keep a good record of spending, and reduce the stress that comes with not knowing if you have enough money to cover the bills.

Follow these steps to get you started.

Step 1. Establish financial goals

Write down your financial goals based on what matters to you. It’s important to think about your short-term goals, as well as those long-term goals and prioritize. Paying down debt, establishing an emergency fund, and saving for retirement need to be at the top of the list.

When making goals, try using the SMART method. Smart goals are specific, measurable, adaptable, realistic and time-bound. For example, if you want to save money to take a vacation, estimate the cost and then determine how much money you will need to set aside to cover the cost of the trip.

Step 2: Find out where your money goes

To help you manage your money, you need to figure out how you spend it. Start by writing down what you spend each day on items like lunch, groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. Look at you monthly expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and child care.

Step 3: Determine your monthly income

Sources of income might include your take home pay, child support, social security, retirement, or unemployment. Total the amount for the month.

Step 4: Record your flexible and fixed expenses

Determine which of your expenses are fixed (those you pay a set amount on a regular basis whether that is monthly, quarterly or annually) and those that are flexible (those that vary in amount from month to month).

Step 5: Are you living on what you make?

Subtract your expenses from your income. If you have a money surplus set it aside to reach some of your goals or pay extra money toward a loan or mortgage payment. If you have a deficit, figure out how you can increase income or decrease your expenses.

Step 6: Request a UF/IFAS 2018 Money Management Calendar

To help you manage your money and stay on track for 2018 contact njensen@ufl.edu to request a copy.